Zanzibar, the island everyone dreams of going to. White, sandy beaches, hotels for miles, cafes and, of course, any beach activity you could possibly want. Unfortunately for us it was not quite the paradise we dreamed and hoped it would be, but more on that later. The trip started with an early rise in Dar Es Salaam, where we took a tuk tuk to catch our first ferry. The boarding was quite intense - people pushed and herded on each other like cattle. Especially the older guys had no issues whatsoever pushing everything out of the way that was weaker than them. From there we took a taxi ride to our next ferry which took approximately two hours to reach Zanzibar. Once there we had to meet our local guide, no operators outside of the island are allowed to work here. Let me just give you a bit of information about the island before I go into detail about our experiences there.
Zanzibar is located off the mainland of Tanzania, it is famous for spices in particular - the islands produce cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper. More than 99 percent of Zanzibar's population is Muslim and some of the remaining 1 percent is Christian. The island has a long history with the slave trade – this was the last spot for African slaves before they were shipped into the rest of the world.
So we decided to do the spice tour, it was recommended to us by some friends. We went to a local plantation and quickly found out we knew pretty much nothing about spices (especially when they are not packed in small plastic bags and labelled properly...). The one spice that stood out to me the most was cinnamon. Apart from it's other qualities, it is used in Vicks Vapour-rub (which I'm addicted to). You can smell it from the root of the tree straight away. The other spice was jasmine -it is used to make the Chanel Number 5 perfume and it smelt exactly like it! But here they use it mostly for Channel Number 1 as it has no alcohol.
While we walked around the girls were given banana baskets to collect the spices we smelt. Here we were crowned king and queen, well not really but at the end of our tour they gave us flax items. B got a king hat, ring and bow tie, where I received a queen crown, ring, bracelet, necklace and bag. Lucky we had our gear to go to lunch at a local’s house where we were treated to a spice meal.
On the north side of the island is where we spent most of our time relaxing. Our hotel was right near the beach and a variety of water sports and cafes were available to us. In terms of the beach and the sceneries, this is pretty much paradise - I don't think it gets much better than this. B and I were so grateful to have a spacious room with a bathroom, private deck and big bed all to ourselves after a month of camping through Africa. Also, this was the perfect opportunity to take some photos of all the local fisherboats in the bright blue waters - you know, the things you see when you google Zanzibar. What they don’t tell you is that the locals demand money and yell rude things at you if you take a photo. Now I can understand that some people don't want to be photographed (we always ask), but having someone run and yell at you just because he was 20 meters away in the background while you took a photo of something else is a whole different matter. This was the first time that B exchanged some strong words on this trip. In general the locals were not very friendly here (with exceptions of course), although in the tourist places they were super nice. But it leaves you wondering if that is maybe just part of the job.
On our last free day at Zanzibar we decided to take a snorkel tour out to Mnemba which was "supposed" to have some amazing coral and fish life. Our trip out to the island was on a small boat and was "meant" to take an hour (in reality it took two hours and twenty minutes). This might not seem too big of a deal, but if you have only a couple of days on the island it makes a big difference if you have to spend two hours on a boat or five, especially in rough waters. The way there was choppy and I started to feel very sea sick. By the time we reach our snorkel spot I was ready to jump out and see what this island had to offer, but boy was I disappointed – the coral was dead and there was not much fish life. When I got back to the boat it was even worse than before and that’s where I lost it - over the edge I went spewing my guts out and we still had four more hours left on the boat. I don’t remember much of the trip but I do remember B looking after me while I spewed roughly another six times.
On a whole Zanzibar is a beautiful place to visit, you have white sand beaches, amazing water sports and all the blue lagoons you ever dreamed of. But for me one visit to Zanzibar is enough to last me a life time.